In May this year, TikTok announced a #LearnonTikTok campaign to facilitate home-based learning in light of the lockdowns that occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign was backed by a $50 million fund which was a part of the company’s $250 million pledge to respond to the effects of the pandemic.
The move was viewed as TikTok’s expansion into the education market, as the company contracted universities, charities, as well as celebrities to create content to aid in the process.
Bryan Thoensen, the Head of Content Partnerships at TikTok US, said in a statement, “Last month, we announced the formation of our $50 million Creative Learning Fund, a key part of our $250 million pledge to support our community during and through this difficult time. The fund supports creators with the production of learning content, provides resources for learners, and introduces emerging teachers to the TikTok platform.
He added, “Today, we’re excited to share that we’ve partnered with over 800 public figures, media publishers, educational institutions, and real-world professional experts who’ve been affected by the effects of this global pandemic to bring learning material to TikTok. We’ve been humbled to be able to bring these grants to educators, professional experts, and nonprofits who have the power to offer us creative learning especially during this tough time.”
To further these efforts, TikTok has begun the test run for a “Learn” tab on its app earlier in November, which will feature next to “For You” and “Following” at the top of the home screen. The tab is currently made unavailable, however, its brief appearance lasted long enough to give users a taste of what is to come. TikTok described the feature as a place to “explore a feed of fun and informative videos across science, art, cooking, and more”, and on November 5th, 2020, social media consultant Matt Navarra, tweeted a screenshot of what it would look like.
TikTok’s move into the educational sector seems only logical. Youtube realised the potential of visual media as an aid to learning very early in the game, and TikTok, with its shorter format, appears to be seeking and delivering sharper content in the same vein. As the world moves to digital solutions in light of the coronavirus pandemic, this also seems the perfect timing for the company to execute this shift.
What this campaign further provides, however, is an opportunity for some soft diplomacy. TikTok has been on the end of a lot of negative coverage for its policies as well as its alleged links to the Chinese government. Moves like this indicate to the userbase the company’s attempts to harness an engaged community and wave a white flag to governments around the globe.
It is yet to see what the Learn feature would look like, how it would operate, and what would be the gains of these developments for TikTok users, and interestingly, for the company itself.